Category Archives: Uncategorized

Genetics Case Study: Diagnose the Patient

By completing this task, we will learn about chromosomes, genes, alleles and mutations, as well as some theoretical genetics. It serves as a review of transcription and translation, as well as protein structure. In the final stages, we will also access the Entrez Gene database (ICT requirement 4 on the 4PSOW).

This task is heavily based on the work of others and is credited at the end.

For more excellent case study resources for science, visit the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science.

Scitable – Authentic Science Learning from Nature Education

Nature Education’s Scitable project is a free, collaborative online project which opens up lots of peer-reviewed, high-quality Nature content to students, teachers and learning groups.

The goal was to put high-quality Science information onto the web, and to give control and flexibility over learning. Having signed-up and looked at some of the brilliant readers and resources there, I will surely be using it in future! Scitable represents an authentic, evolving and engaging alternative to science textbooks, one of the reasons I started this blog in the first place. Check out some of the student blogs, too!

Here’s a quick video overview, but there is more information after the jump.

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Manipulative Skills self-assessment

Word 97-2003 version here.

This is only formally assessed once at the end of the course, but can be a good exercise in student self-assessment. I have unpacked the aspects into some skills and indicators in the second table. Feel free to download and edit to suit your own needs.

Awesome Random Reviews

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Here are two quizzes which you can take online and will give you 50 randomly-selected questions from my Quia questionbank each time.

Higher Level Random Review (Topics 1-11)

Standard Level Random Review (Topic 1-6)

You do not need to log in.

IB Biology Teachers – your subject needs you

You may be aware that the curriculum review for Biology is currently underway and feedback from IB Bio teachers is very useful in the process. The curriculum review team posted a report on their meeting from October in 201o onto the OCC (login needed). There is a survey on the OCC for teachers to complete.

To find the report and complete the survey, please log in to the OCC and go the Biology area:

Click here to log in to the OCC and scroll down a bit to complete the questionnaire.

Please note that I am not part of the review team, but do feel that this is an important role for teachers to play. This is where we get the chance to have input into content and internal assessment. There are also discussion threads on the OCC dedicated to this review.

What’s Your Water Footprint? had a competition for best visualisation for World Water Day (22nd March), and the winner is this interactive world map by Joseph Bergen and Nicki Huang, from Harvard:

What's your water footprint? Joseph Bergen and Nicki Huang's interactive visualisation.

It’s going to get pretty quiet around here…

…find out why after the page break.


Click to donate

First off, my students’ and my thoughts are with all those affected by the recent disasters in both New Zealand and Japan. We are following all stories closely and wish everyone the best possible outcome, despite such horrible circumstances.

We should also consider those in Egypt, Libya and other regions of instability. We must think ourselves fortunate compared to those whose access to education, especially the quality of education you get in international schools, is limited.

It may look like doom and gloom in the world right now, but you guys – IB students – can be the change that needs to happen. When you graduate, do something useful. Science can help build a sustainable and stable future.


With exams looming, it is time for some real, self-directed review and study. Search the internet and you’ll find loads of ideas, but here are some specific tips for my students and others involved in IB Biology.


1. Practice. Get the QuestionBank CDRom, past papers and practice questions from the textbooks and use them extensively.

2. Get used to writing for extended periods of time, and under timed conditions. Think ‘a mark a minute’ and you’ll be fine. If your handwriting’s rubbish, get working on it ASAP.

3. Audit your knowledge using the subject guide. Remove all the pages for topics you do not need to cover (e.g. Options that are not yours, AHL content if you are in SL), and you will find it more manageable. Then work through each one – do you feel like you could answer an exam question for each?

4. Understand the Command Terms.

5. Pay attention to the number of marks available. For the 6-8 mark questions, write at least that much, and take care of structure and logic in your answers. Lay it out clearly and don’t waffle.

Writing about exam stress

6. Practice the data questions. Can you make your own from graphs and charts in works that you have read?

7. Write about your exam stress. Ed Yong tells us why.

8. Use whiteboarding to practice diagrams, annotations, explanations and so on. Teaching others clarifies the ideas and explanations in your own mind.

9. Know your way around the calculator and practice means, standard deviations, percentage changes and calculating sizes and magnifications.

10 Sleep, eat well and keep fit. All night cramming is no good for you – if it’s not in your brain by the day before, it won’t be, so stop stressing and get to sleep. Decaffeinate yourself, get some exercise and stay healthy so that you don’t risk getting sick in the exam session. Find out more about Brain Compatible Education at Derek Pugh’s website (Derek was my predecessor at BIS).

Some more techniques my students have used:

You could also record podcasts or vodcasts (like at Click4Biology).

Always think about how effective your use of time is when you are carrying out a task. Some students may spend hours copying out their notes, but to what extent does it have a positive impact on exam grades?

Good luck,


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Untangling the Brain – Nature Video

Another great video from the NatureVideoChannel, posted just in time for the end of the IB Biology course for our HL students.

For more brain resources, head over to the main topic page (E5 The Human Brain).

Also check out the excellent resources from the NewScientist: The Human Brain

3D Brain App: It's Free!

PBS has a great site called The Secret Life of the Brain (with 3D animation), and there’s Slate’s special issue on The Brain.

If you have an iPod Touch, iPhone or iPad, get this cool free app: 3dBrain.


Some comic relief from the mock exams…

Reward your studies with a 5-minute giggle-break.

If you really must think as you’re watching the video, can you pick out examples of innate and learned behaviour, altruism, competition, kin selection and mate selection?

BIS Students: remember there are loads of past papers on Moodle, including P1 quizzes to try through Quia: The quizzes will grade themselves, but you need to get the question papers from Moodle or the network.

The Looming Water Crisis

Could we run out of water before we run out of oil?

World Water Day is just around the corner – March 22nd.

Powerful messages abound regarding the impending socio-political, environmental and humanitarian disaster of the global water shortage. Watching the presentation and video above you will notice some startling, terrifying statistics. As a critical thinking or data-literacy task, can you track down the sources of those statistics?

What is 'Water Stress?'

With Earth Day (April 22) coming up, and the GIN conference around the same time, there are plenty of opportunities to explore the water shortage as an issue upon which we, as learners and leaders, can take action.This would in itself be a great topic for local and global CAS, or a self-contained theme for the Group 4 Project.

Find out more about the world water crisis here:

Some resources to use:

Using the resources above, as well as other local orgnisations, can the school develop and monitor a sustainable water plan?

Here’s a cool video, with a good soundtrack, from charity:water

Do you have any more resources and ideas for the water crisis to share? Add them in the comments below!

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